With the G2, LG is hedging its bets in a variety of different ways. The handset is packed to the gills with the best bits of tech available and LG’s approach to software seems to be ‘if you don’t like what we do then change it’. But does this power and variety gel into the phone that you actually want more than all the others?
Perhaps the weakest element of the G2 is how it looks and feels. It’s not a phone that gives a good first impression, and this is a terrible shame. You need to get to know the G2 to love it, but many people will never it further with it than a passing glance in the phone shop.
LG chooses a glossy plastic chassis, which will remind some of the old iPhone 3G and certainly not of Apple’s more recent models. On close inspection, the battery cover has a subtle criss-cross texture to it, which is quite attractive, but almost invisible unless the phone is seen at the right angle.
The most attention grabbing feature of this design is in the decision to put the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone, rather than along the sides. The three buttons sit in a line directly under the camera lens, and while it might sound difficult to figure out, the shape of the buttons make them easy to distinguish without looking.
The problem is that you constantly touch the camera lens when looking for the buttons, and then spend time cleaning the lens before taking a shot. This, and there does’t seem to be any good reasons to put the buttons on the back. We haven’t found this placement any more convenient than having the buttons on the side, and more difficult in some situations. All in all, it feels like change for the sake of change.
Also, you can’t take the battery cover off the G2, so the battery isn’t accessible, and it has to be the first LG phone without a microSD card slot for a long time.
While the physical design of the phone might not be ground-breaking, the 1080p resolution 5-inch IPS display is a treat. This screen is bright, crisp and very responsive to touch.
LG prides itself on being able to bring the expertise from its TV engineers to its smaller displays, and it is easy to see why. With the brightness ratcheted up to 100% it is almost painful to look at this screen. This also means it is outstanding for outdoor use. Even under bright morning light, we can still the screen on the G2 clearly, at the right brightness setting.
With the power button on the back of the phone, LG has introduced a ‘double-tap’ wake-up and sleep command for this model. If the phone is in standby you can double tap on the screen to power it up. When you are finished, you can double-tap to put it to sleep — although this only works if you tap on a blank section of one of the Home screens. If you touch an app instead, it will launch.
This has become one of those features that we miss as soon as we don’t have it anymore. Having moved on to a different phone now, we find we continue to double-tap the screen to wake it up, only to be met with disappointment.
What is incredible about playing with the G2 is the sheer number of software settings, tweaks, apps and mini-tools LG packs into this phone. We’ll almost certainly overlook a few in trying to describe them, but here are a few of our favourites.
We’ve covered Voice Mate in more detail here, but in brief, this is a decent voice assistant software that works hard to match the likes of tools like Siri. It doesn’t try to be better than Siri, and it isn’t, but it is a handy bonus for LG customers, powered by the same voice recognition tools you'll find in LG's TVs.
Customise icons & themes
Some phones let you change certain elements of how things look and how options are laid out, but LG takes this concept much further. So much of the phone’s interface is user customisable, from the wallpapers and application icons, to the number and positioning of the main navigation buttons. It’s all a bit fiddly to play around with, but it is an option that will keep some users amused for months.
This simple idea is central to LG’s Android strategy and is available on a number of its recent handsets. Quick Memo is an overlay screen that can be called up at any time, regardless of which app you are in. You use the touchscreen to scribble down quick notes, which is really handy for grabbing someone’s phone number or email address to enter into the appropriate app later on.
Like some of its key competitors, LG has crammed an IR blaster into the LG G2 and the Quick Remote app to turn your phone into a universal remote. We tested it with a late model Samsung TV we have the WhistleOut labs and it worked well, even if the IR signal was a bit weak.
More an accessory than a software feature, the QuickWindow Case is sold separately, but is well worth picking up. It is a flip-style case with a window at the front that displays information like the time and weather, but a glimpse at the notifications you have waiting on your phone.
Again, this is very similar to Samsung’s efforts, but LG does take the idea a step further, with several optional clock-faces, and more information on the screen.
Unlike many of its biggest rivals Samsung and Sony, LG doesn’t have a camera department to call out to for help when putting together its phones, and this shows in the photos the G2 takes.
That said, there is some impressive sounding hardware in this camera. LG chooses a 13-megapixel image sensor -- in line with the Galaxy Note 3 -- and includes optical image stabilisation, or moving parts to help remove handheld shakiness.
These are not terrible photos, but they aren’t great either. They are adequate for snapping your surroundings, but problems with resolving mixed light temperatures and clear pixelation means that you can’t always rely on the G2 to nail the moment. Moreover, it is unlikely you will come away with one of those truly amazing photos you sometimes take with an iPhone or a Nokia.
Paired with the fantastic display, the performance of the G2 is one of the top reasons to consider buying this phone. LG includes some of today’s best hardware components in putting the G2 together, and it shows in the phone’s fluid everyday handling.
Better still, it has one of the largest batteries in a phone of this size, and while the screen does its best to suck down the juice, we still found that we had power for up to two-days in most cases. Heavy uses will challenge this claim, but in our testing we always found ourselves closer to the end of the second day before the power gave out.
The LG G2 gets the basics right, with first-class performance and battery life and one of the best touch screens in the market. If you know how to add to this equation by downloading your own software modifications from the Play Store, then you are on a winner with the G2.
If you are looking for the complete package, the G2 might disappoint. LG software suite is a strange mix of tools, most of which you’ll never use, and the camera doesn’t compare to the big names in smartphone photography. It’s physical design is also lacking that wow-factor that you get the first time you see a phone like the HTC One, for example.
This is a frivolous list of negatives, and if you value better battery life over a good looking phone, you should definitely add the G2 to your list of handsets to see for yourself.